She may have traded the Central Campus for LFCC’s Middletown Campus, but Kaelyn Cary will continue the mentoring program she started between high school students and their elementary counterparts. Cary will do so as part of a service project connected to the Ross Fellowship for Service and Scholarship she has been awarded at LFCC.
Cary, who lives in Maurertown, started the Friendly Giants program during her senior year at Central High School.
“I was already mentoring a third-grade girl on my own,” says Cary, who graduated in June, and started classes at LFCC in August. “Just seeing the positive change in her made me want to bring about positive change for more children. When you work with little kids, it also changes you a little bit.”
Putting on her “best puppy dog face,” she approached some of her friends at Central to see if they would be interested in piloting the mentoring program, which would pair them with students at W.W. Robinson Elementary School. The Big Brothers, Big Sisters-style program, called Friendly Giants, was a success, and it and Cary were featured in the Northern Virginia Daily in March.
The Friendly Giants program was a factor in Cary receiving the Ross Fellowship, which covers one full year of tuition and textbooks, plus the purchase of a computer. Cary will also receive a $1,500 stipend upon the completion of a year-long service learning project.
She is the second Ross Fellowship recipient. In 2013, Front Royal resident Charles Ross, a World War II veteran, left his $1.4 million estate to the LFCC Educational Foundation. Academic excellence, character and community service factor into the fellowship selection process.
Cary’s service project will be expanding the Friendly Giants program to Strasburg High School and Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“When I found out that I won the fellowship, I was just ecstatic,” she says.
Besides Friendly Giants, Cary has volunteered at Camp Follow the Leader, which pairs children with special needs with older “buddies.”
At LFCC, Cary is studying science, and she plans to transfer to James Madison University and study kinesiology. Her hope is to become a physical education teacher, and then to become an adapted physical education teacher working with children with special needs, ultimately opening a gym designed for them.
Coming to LFCC has worked out really well for Cary. Her parents pointed out it has great academics, is affordable and is close to home, meaning she can still work and see her friends in addition to classes.
“I looked into it, and I really liked it here,” Cary says. “I decided that this was the best fit for me. I’ve already learned so much in all of my classes. I feel like this is going to be a good experience for me. Not just the academics, but also improving my time management skills and meeting new people. It’s going to be fun. I’ve already made some really good friends.”